Cambodia, South Korea and Vietnam loosen COVID-19 restrictions as Asia reopens for tourists

Mar 18, 2022

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Many countries in Asia are ready to welcome tourists again, even with case numbers related to the omicron variant still showing concerning increases. Several nations have begun to pull back or remove their pandemic restrictions, including testing and quarantine requirements.

On Thursday, Cambodia eliminated its mandate that overseas visitors must take COVID-19 tests before entering the country. It was a move government officials said was designed to help revive the tourism industry, which accounts for 2 million jobs and is responsible for roughly 25% of the country’s gross domestic product. “Now it’s the stage to open the economy by learning how to live with COVID,” Reuters quoted Prime Minister Hun Sen saying during a speech.

The Southeast Asian nation has reached a 92% vaccination rate among its citizens, one of the highest percentages in Asia.

Cambodia’s relaxed entry requirements are designed to benefit fully vaccinated tourists. The only way to avoid a two-week quarantine period is to show proof of vaccination upon arrival. Health officials are still encouraging visitors, even if they’re fully vaccinated, to take rapid tests on their own to guard against further spread of the virus.

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Morning in Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Vietnam. (Photo by Tai GinDa/Getty Images)

Vietnam has also declared it is reopening for foreign tourists.

Officials have lifted all restrictions, including mandatory quarantine requirements for both foreigners and Vietnamese nationals entering the country. Effective immediately, travelers only have to show a valid negative COVID-19 test upon arrival to be allowed into Vietnam. Visitors must still monitor their own health during the first 10 days of their stay, and notify local health authorities if they come down with symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.

Vietnam’s decision to reopen comes at a time when its reported COVID-19 cases are rising. Close to 200,000 cases have been reported in the past two weeks, although officials say most patients have only reported mild symptoms that don’t require hospitalization.

South Korea is also pulling back on restrictions despite soaring case numbers. As of April 1, fully vaccinated travelers can register with South Korea’s Q-Code website to obtain a QR code that will be used to enter the country and skip the seven-day quarantine.

Foreign visitors must have received a two-dose vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, at least two weeks before their trip to be considered fully vaccinated. Proof of a booster shot is required if it has been more than 180 days since vaccination. The Q-Code system will ask for information such as your passport number, departure country, airline, phone number and vaccine records.

Foreign visitors arriving in South Korea by plane will also need to have a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before departure. A record 383,651 cases were reported last week, according to the latest data, with 293 deaths related to COVID-19 in a single day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified South Korea at Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19, and warned U.S. travelers to avoid the country.

Related: The Philippines reopening its borders to foreign travelers

The entertainment district at the foot of the skyscrapers of the Shinjuku business district in the heart of Tokyo. (Photo by Didier Marti/Getty Images)

The lifting of all these restrictions is a clear sign that the region is ready to get back to some semblance of normalcy after many countries endured harsh restrictions for over two years.

Not all Asian nations are ready to welcome foreign visitors back, however.

Japan has announced plans to remove its coronavirus restrictions entirely as of March 21, a decision influenced by a decreasing number of new COVID-19 infections. Barring any last-minute reversals, Monday will mark the first time Japan has been without virus restrictions since early January. “This will be a transitional period so that we can return to our normal daily lives as much as possible by taking maximum precautions,” Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, according to the Associated Press.

While this is designed to encourage more domestic travel, as well as large gatherings for vaccinated people, Japan is still not opening its borders for tourists yet. The biggest concession the government has made with regard to international visitors came last month, when officials increased the limit on daily new arrivals to 7,000. This decision was designed to allow foreign scholars, students and business travelers to enter Japan.

Featured photo by Matthew Micah Wright/Getty Images.

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